YMCA Exeter resident Kirstie tells me she does not like heights. And yet we’re standing on a platform, 25 feet above the ground wearing hard hats and safety harnesses.
Kirstie and other residents have spent the week helping to renovate St Sidwell’s Church bell and tower, in its permanent home opposite YMCA Exeter’s new Sidwell Studios.
“I’ve never done anything like this before and confidence is something I struggle with,” explains Kirstie. “But with gentle encouragement I’ve managed to move up a level on the scaffolding every day. I feel really proud. I can see the bell from outside my new apartment window – there’s a real sense of achievement.”
Andy Fletcher was one of the first YMCA Exeter residents to move into the new Sidwell Studio’s development in August 2022, having previously struggled to find affordable one-bed accommodation in Exeter:
“It’s been such a fun week working together as a team. The bell will be celebrating its 250th birthday next year, so there’s a real sense of achievement to have renovated a piece of history, right on our doorstep. We’re proud of what we’re done.”
The historic bell was cast in 1773 at the world-famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry, most well-known for making London’s Big Ben. Today, the bell, estimated to weigh around 700kg, is the sole-surviving bell from St Sidwell’s Church following the devastating blitz destruction during WWII.